Becoming a wealthy nation

As a nation, most of our sufferings are due to the lack of financial resources. It is why we are among the last to be allocated COVID vaccines, why quality health care is not subsidized by the state, why government is unable to provide adequate aid for the jobless and why financial lifelines cannot be provided to local businesses. Being poor is the reason why our armed forces is ill-equipped to defend our borders. It is why our educational system is outdated and why our infrastructure is lacking.

The world is divided among the haves and have nots. Citizens of rich nations live with less worry about food, education, shelter and health. They live their lives with dignity and with relative ease. In contrast, citizens of poor nations, like the Philippines, live with the specter of hunger and homelessness hanging over our heads. We are left to survive on our own. We are easy prey to bullying nations. And since many of us must work abroad to feed the family, we are often on the receiving end of racism. Being born to a poor nation guarantees a life of hardship and disadvantage.

Being poor is a result of bad governance. Conversely, good governance is the way to wealth generation.

Nations that have been blessed with competent leaders have been able to break away from talons of poverty and rise to richness in as quickly as one generation (30 years). We have seen it happen to Singapore, to South Korea and to Taiwan. The Philippines must break away too because being poor only brings misery and anguish.

The creation of wealth requires a deliberate plan from a deliberate leader. A leader with a clear vision, an unbendable will and honesty. He/she must be willing to break down the broken political system and re-build it in a manner that serves the greater majority, not just the narrow elite. In short, a leader who is a reformist. Make no mistake, fates of nations come down to the quality of their leaders.

As I said, good governance is the way to wealth generation. However, good governance is an abstract concept that many don’t quite understand. Allow me to explain it through a simple analogy. Think of a country as a business enterprise. Good governance is installing the right management, the right policies and the right strategies to make that enterprise as profitable as possible.

Let’s start with the selection of a chief executive officer (CEO) of a business. He/she must be purpose driven, sharp, strategic and honest. He/she must be the driver of a well-considered business plan and aided by the most capable of executives. Similarly, a good national president must be the architect of his own reform agenda and supported by a Cabinet composed of the best and brightest. He/she will shun political appointments if doing so deprives better qualified professionals from serving.

Corruption is the cancer that depletes profits of businesses and can potentially drive it to bankruptcy. Well-managed corporations have a zero tolerance for corruption. Guilty parties are immediately terminated and taken to court. In the same vein, corruption in government diverts financial resources meant for the majority to a select few. Corruption leads to poverty of the masses.

Our next president must have a zero tolerance for corruption, just like a corporate CEO would. He/she must establish a strong audit and judicial arm to detect and prosecute the corrupt with haste. A good president will eliminate all conflicts of interest in government service. Hence, he/she will immediately enact the Anti-Dynasty Bill, the Campaign Funds Transparency Bill (to eliminate political debt) and the Political Party Turncoatism Bill. He/she will also eliminate vested interests among high-ranking government officials. Those who utilize dummy entities to hide their true business interests must be made to face criminal prosecution.

The creation of wealth starts with low hanging fruits. For us, this pertains to our rich mineral resources and maritime-related industries. Our mineral resources are worth well over a trillion US dollars. It is a great disservice to our people not to use it. Our next leader must put a sensible mining and maritime development plan into effect, similar to what Australia has. We can expect speedy financial relief from this.

A country’s capacity to produce goods and services determines how wealthy it can be. Just as a corporate CEO would expand its factory and office, a good president must aggressively pursue new investments in a diversified set of industries. And like Volkswagen and Apple, our leader must enable Philippine-made products and services to climb the value chain of quality, innovation and technology.

A corporate CEO will invest in internal efficiencies to create the right conditions for its business to thrive. Correspondingly, a good president must eliminate the stumbling blocks to economic activity. This includes digitizing government processes, infrastructure development and, more importantly, reforming counter-productive laws. Among these laws are the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the EPIRA Law, the protectionist economic provisions of the Constitution, laws relating to eminent domain and the Local Government Code (because most LGUs hinder private sector productivity).

Progressive corporations are supported by a strong human resource department (HRD) that puts order to working conditions by enforcing a code of conduct. In a national context, the HRD is equivalent to the justice system while the code of conduct is equivalent to the rule of law. Both must be strengthened and made to act swiftly, objectively and fairly.

Just as progressive corporations invest in management development programs for rising executives, so must a nation plant the seeds for the next generation. This is where education comes in. Massive reforms are needed to elevate our education system to a level of competitiveness. The urgency of this cannot be overstated.

Marketing builds the image of brands and secures market share. Nations must do the same. Building strong national brands is something only forward looking leaders do, as simpletons cannot see beyond local politics. Country branding creates soft power. It creates allies, boosts tourism and generates national pride.

The country has been too poor for too long. We have wasted untold resources on no-win pursuits like the war on drugs and other such populist side issues. We have lost too much on corruption too. We have lost focus on what really matters… climbing the ladder of wealth to give our people the life of dignity they deserve. Our next leader must be one whose primary mission is to generate wealth through good governance.

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Email: Follow him on Facebook @Andrew J. Masigan

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